Friday, July 09, 2010

COLUMN: iPhone

I've never understood why, but the minute warm weather officially settles upon the Quad Cities, all I can think about doing is getting in a car and driving far, far away. Does this mean I hate the QC or something? Far from it. Even if I lived in the greatest place in the world -- a magical town called Shanetopia where the streets are lined with record stores and paved with chocolate -- I'd still want to hit the road the second the thermometer crests 65. (Come to think of it, it's probably not a bad idea to leave a chocolate-paved town in the summer months. "SUN RISES, HORROR RESUMES IN SHANETOPIA: SCORES DEAD AFTER YET ANOTHER TERRIFYING BUT TASTY CHOCOLATE FLOOD. FILM AT 11."

Ever since someone at the DMV foolishly handed me a license, my favorite hobby has been aimless driving. There is NOTHING better than filling the car up with gas, grabbing any available friends, and hitting the open -- and, occasionally, the closed -- road. No agenda, no destination, no rules. Nothing centers my psyche quite like being pleasantly lost on a gravel road in the middle of nowhere.

But this year seems different. When presented with some perfectly good aimless driving opportunities this spring, I've thus far responded with a resounding "feh." I'm not exactly sure why or how it happened, but a good old fashioned aimless drive seems to have lost its lustre a bit. I've been trying to figure out why the change in heart. Could it be...

• My age? Truth be told, the lure of the aimless drive clearly stemmed from parental independence and the ability to set our own rules and punchclock. My parents told me for years that anyone out in the middle of the night was clearly Up To No Good, and it was high time I learned what that was like. Suddenly mom and dad weren't calling the shots... and when the cat's away, occasionally the mice will take off on a back road and end up in central Wisconsin at 3 a.m. for no good reason whatsoever. These days, I sort of covet 8 hours of sleep and the comforting embrace of late night talk shows. I believe this makes me a fuddy-duddy.

• My car? As much as I love her, the Wonder Beetle is a bit past her prime. Its no fun getting lost in the middle of BFE with the serious risk that the car could break down at any millisecond. And with me currently buying a house and all, I'd like to eke out the last dying embers of Fahrvegnugen that the old girl's got in her. For the time being, I'm a trapped short-run city driver.

• My location? After 20-ish years of driving aimlessly around the area with Friend Jason and a countless cast of others, it takes an awful lot of effort these days to get us pleasantly lost on a gravel road in the middle of nowhere. We pretty much know every back road within a 50-mile radius of the Quad Cities by this point, which takes away some of the excitement off choosing the Roads Less Travelled By.

• Al Gore? As a proud left-leaner, I went to see ol' Al's shock-and-awe global warming disaster epic, "An Inconvenient Truth." But rather than leaving the theatre a satisfied Democrat, I left pretty much ashamed and guilty to be a living and consuming human being. Say what you want about global warming, but every time I stop at a gas station to fill up, I can't help but wince and think that I should be on a bike heading off to invent a car powered exclusively by lettuce and human tears.

But then I realized the truth. There's only one thing that's stopped me from enjoying aimless drives this year:


Him and his stupid technology have single-handedly killed my passion for aimless drives. It's easy to understand why. Getting lost in the country without an agenda is fun and relaxing... but it's not without a captivating spark or two of danger and excitement. I think back on all those college nights when we would go cruising and end up on some uncharted gravel bumpkin road at 1 a.m. If we'd have broken down, careened into a ditch, or smashed into Bambi, we would have been totally and completely HOSED. Even if we had cell phones, which we didn't, it would have been like:

"Help! My car broke down!"
"Sure! Where are you?"
"Ummmmmmm... by some trees. And corn."

And the knowledge that one wrong turn could end us left to our own devices amidst woodland creatures and the extras from "Deliverance" was kind of a rush. But thanks to Mr. Jobs and his magical iPhone, I now understand B.B. King: the thrill is gone.

Now that I've got an iPhone, it's a different world.

"Help! My car broke down!"
"Sure! Where are you?"
"N 41°30.435578951258293', W 90°30.788326263427734'. 3.42 miles from the Lamplighter Inn just past Lewis Fork. User 'CyberCooper' gives their cherry pie four out of five stars. The traffic is light. Radar shows mild cloud cover and a 30% chance of rain. Get a fix on my position with Loopt and I'll see you in an estimated 37.2 minutes."

How I managed to live for 30+ years without an iPhone is beyond me. While it indeed sucks the excitement out of an aimless drive, I can barely cope without it. One day last week I forgot my iPhone at home and it felt like I'd been cut off from all civilization. I barely made it through the day without my apps. My precious, precious apps!

With Maps, I'll never be lost again. With Shazam, I can identify any song that's playing on the radio. With Fandango, I can order movie tickets. With IMDB, I can learn about the movie. With Sporcle, I can take a quiz about the movie after I've seen it. With PocketFlicks, I can update my Netflix queue without moving those cumbersome ten feet from the couch to my computer. With Dragon Dictation, I can compose this entire column just by talking out loud. (Actually, Dragon just repeated that sentence as: "With dragon lactation, I suppose this is tire time just by talking to a cow." Which only makes it MORE interesting!)

And now, the iPhone just fixed my aimless driving doldrums. has long been the bible of aimless driving, and they finally unveiled their app for the iPhone. Now, with the click of a button, no matter where I'm at, I can get info and directions to the nearest array of crazy weird stuff: giant plastic dinosaurs, haunted mansions, animatronic Ben Franklins, you name it. Now get out of my way -- I've got a World's Largest Ketchup Bottle to go see.

1 comment:

QC Ghost said...

Isn't it possible just being a liberal leaves you indecisive these days? Can't blame Bush; you loved to travel then. Ghost